My heart skipped a beat and I immediately got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Oh shit. I'd done it. The accidental double tap. I was deep into Insta-stalking my partner's ex-girlfriend, 32-weeks deep in fact, and now she would know that I wanted just a closer look at her in a bikini on a holiday in Bangkok.
The red heart icon sat mocking me as panic set in. I thought about smashing my phone but that seemed a little extreme and I wasn't convinced it would solve the problem, so I quickly googled 'What to do if you accidentally like an Instagram photo?' Thankfully there was some advice. Apparently I'm not the only Insta-sicko out there.
I unliked the post, then blocked her for good measure. But there was a chance she'd already seen it. I found out later from a mutual friend that she did. In terms of social media faux pas I was now at kamikaze status.
I think Instagram stalking is something we all love to do but rarely admit to. A bit like shopping at Aldi.
I thought about messaging her, being upfront and honest. Maybe she would take it in good humour and we could both have a laugh. Maybe she would feel flattered that I was seeking her out. But it would probably be more likely that she would freak the f*** out.
The only thing left for me to do was to somehow rationalise my behaviour, convince myself that what I'd done was completely normal and okay.
So, I thought about my motives. Obviously, some of my deep-seated insecurity issues were definitely at play. But I was also just curious. I wanted to see what she was like, to see how I measured up. And I think that's an inherent curiosity that we all have. Unfortunately, it's a curiosity which definitely killed this cat.
And then I thought about how I got there, it was a click-through from a click-through; I jumped from one person to another, from girl to boy, celebrity to friend, till I eventually ended up at her -- pouring over her life, deeply invested. I didn't have a list of 'to stalk' names in red lipstick like that creepy guy from 'Billy Maddison'. I promise.
Really, there was nothing malicious about my behaviour, it didn't come from a nasty place. I wasn't scrolling through seething with jealousy, wishing her ill will. I wasn't trolling her, leaving mean comments or making fun of her with my friends. I was just having a little bit of a squiz, y'know?
And I know I'm not alone. I think Instagram stalking is something we all love to do but rarely admit to. A bit like shopping at Aldi.
So, to my fellow lurkers, I know you're out there somewhere -- probably stalking a new colleague, old friend or longtime crush -- have no shame about this harmless habit. You fly that freak flag. Who knows, maybe receiving a like on an old photo, by some random person, could be just what they need.